(ATTN: RECASTS throughout with issuance of highest FMD warning level)
SEOUL, May 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Friday raised the crisis level of the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) to the highest point in central regions and will implement beefed-up quarantine measures to prevent the spread of the animal disease, the agriculture ministry said.
The warning level was heightened by two notches from "caution" to "serious," the highest level of its four-tier system, for the central city of Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province; the county of Jeungpyeong in the same province; and seven other adjacent regions, including Daejeon, Sejong and Cheonan, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
It is the first time since March 2018 that the government has raised the warning level to the highest point.
The move came as the country has reported a series of FMD cases in the regions recently after confirming a case earlier this month for the first time in more than four years.
Up until early Friday, the country had found 11 FMD cases at local farms -- nine in Cheongju and two in Jeungpyeong -- with the latest one being reported at a Cheongju beef cattle farm, the agriculture ministry said.
Authorities sent officials to the farm for quarantine and disinfection work to prevent the spread of the disease, and all the cattle being raised there will be culled, the ministry said.
To contain the disease, the government completed administering vaccines to animals at farms in the nine cities and counties, and shut down beef-related markets and facilities there.
Clinical tests will take place at least once a week on the farms in the regions to detect suspected cases in advance, according to the ministry.
Officials, however, have said that chances seem low for the viral disease to spread nationwide as vaccines are quite effective, though further cases could occur sporadically in the central areas.
As a severe and highly transmissible viral disease, FMD causes illness in cows, pigs, goats and other cloven-hoofed animals. It does not affect humans.
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